I am basically a wine drinker. But I can enjoy a really cold Miller Lite from time to time. Heavier beers, craft beers, I’m usually not so crazy about.
That’s why I was a little surprised to have had such an enjoyable — and tasty — time the other night when our friends Dawn and Richard Ford accompanied Alan and me to a beer tasting at the University of Tennessee Visitors’ Center. Organized by the UT Culinary Institute, this is this second one we’ve attended under the expert guidance of Carol Costello, who heads the Institute’s wine and beer education program. This one featured the beers of Blackstone Brewing Company in Nashville. When Blackstone first opened in 1994, it was the first brewpub in Nashville and the third in Tennessee. In 2011, its owners invested $4 million and built a brand new state-of-the-art brewing and bottling facility in Nashville’s West End area. In Knoxville, Blackstone Beers are distributed by Cherokee Distributing, a great Moxley Carmichael client.
As he shared the history of Blackstone and gave a virtual tour of the brewery, co-founder Kent Taylor offered these insights:
- “Knowledgeable people drink good beer,” he said. That’s why he is committed to educating people about beer and beer making.
- Beer is made of only four ingredients: malted barley, hops, water and yeast.
- Beer is 95 percent water. “If you have bad water,” Taylor said. “You have bad beer. In Nashville, we have almost perfect water for brewing.”
- “If beer is not bitter, it’s not beer,” he asserted. Hops are the ingredients that give beer its bitterness.
- “The number one rule in beer: Drink it today!” Taylor said.
- Do not leave beer in a hot car!
- Keep your beer out of light. “Light causes ‘skunky’ beer,” he said. How quickly can that happen? Within 10 minutes!
- When tasting and comparing different beers, try to notice three things: What happens at the beginning when you sip it. How it lays on the tongue. How it finishes. Also remember that the bitter-sensing taste buds are at the very back of the tongue. Therefore, beer tasters have to swallow the beer in order to fully taste it.
- “British hops are more subdued, just like the people,” Taylor said. “American hops are more aggressive, like Americans!”
These photos will show you what a fun event this was. But I wanted to mention one serious thing. Tennessee’s beer taxes are very messed up. In fact, Tennessee has the highest beer tax rate in the country, mostly because taxes are charged on the price of beer rather than on the volume sold. There is an effort in the state General Assembly this year to reform the beer tax. Click here for more information about that.